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Rampancy of the begging culture in Nigeria

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By Mercy Kelani

Uniformed officials and other employees beg subtly amidst doing their jobs.

In Nigeria, begging seems to have become a normal activity and is now ubiquitous. People now beg regardless of their financial status. The difference between these beggars is the technique of begging and the target. With social media, begging has been made easy due to its anonymity feature which erases associated shame. Begging through social media is mostly done through the popular term “Urgent 2k”. This request is received by many Nigerians on a regular basis from familiar and unfamiliar contacts.

At Nigerian airports, both local and international, the staff are said to line up as professionals about to carry out their duties with diligence but with the aim of begging. The workers, in different uniforms, the immigration office, customs, airline staff, anti-terrorist groups, sometimes beg subtly with overjoyed greetings and smiles. At international airports, certain food stuff are said to be contraband and taken for confiscation, except the food owner agrees to the payment of a certain amount of dollars. Whereas, those who give them cash without questioning receive special treatment.

The Nigerian Police is not left out in the begging culture.

These beggars are present at eateries and banks as security personnel; on the bus as pastors singing Christian choruses and requesting offerings; near the embassies, well-dressed and waiting to exploit happy people who have just got their visas. They are also on the streets, properly dressed, watching out for a victim to tell a pitiful story that will require financial assistance. There is also the Nigerian Police and their culture of begging. Even the ban on police checkpoints by inspectors general of police has been unable to reduce the police street begging.

Some time ago, begging used to be regarded as an act of shame in the country. Then, majority of Nigerians believed that only those with physical disabilities should beg but many physically disabled people refused to beg for its demeaning nature. A successful and educated crippled man once said that giving alms to a person with physical disabilities is the worst thing that can be done to such fellow because it means a condemnation to a life of beggary. If physically challenged people are not encouraged to beg, physically fit employees shouldn’t either.

Beggars blame beggary on poverty and poor salary.

Whether direct or indirect, begging is considered a demeaning behaviour. Greeting and praising a person for the purpose of acquiring some naira notes is regarded as a shameful act because it is believed that such a person has neglected his or her sense of decency and worth by doing so. It was also discovered that workers bet or compete amongst themselves for the person who begs the most and makes the highest returns from it at the end of the day. Many of them admit that their act of beggary is caused by lack of jobs, poverty and poor salaries.

However, Nigerians argue that begging is not associated with poverty or low remuneration but lack of self-worth and self-respect. Begging has also been said to be the root of fraud, bribery and corruption. This act is usually extended to foreigners within the country by uniformed beggars at airports. These foreigners, after releasing few dollar notes, are praised and waved on without due check. To stop this practice and protect the country, begging by staff in uniform and other employees should be discouraged at all levels of government.

Elimination of beggary in Nigeria is necessary.

As a medium of eliminating the begging culture, citizens are advised to put their mobile phones into use by recording and publishing such acts so that the authorities can take the right action. Official begging embarrasses the country. Technically, a society with a high level of employees who beg will have a high level of corrupt and inefficient officials who have their focus on what to gain from every person that is attended to rather than carrying out their duty with diligence and effectiveness.

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